BEIRUT: Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea slammed Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai’s stance on the unrest in Syria, accusing the influential religious leader of defending the Syrian regime and endangering Christians in the region.
“Practically speaking, the patriarch is defending this regime in Syria that we oppose,” said Geagea, who spoke to MTV in an interview Monday.
“Is Syria [in fact] the closest thing to democracy?” Geagea asked, responding to Rai's statement that Syria is the closest country to democracy in the region. Geagea added that Rai is "subjecting the position of Christians to danger by pitting them against others."
He also took issue with Rai’s recent statements about the “Arab Spring” turning into an Arab “winter,” saying they distorted the history of Christians in the region.
Last week, Rai said violence and bloodshed were turning the “Arab Spring” into an Arab “winter,” threatening Christians and Muslims alike across the Middle East.
Rai, whose Maronite Church also has a presence in Syria, said change could not be brought to the Arab world by force and that Christians feared the turmoil was helping extremist Muslim groups.
Geagea also said that the patriarch’s views differ from those of “ninety-nine percent of the people, including the Vatican, where Pope Benedict XVI urged Syria to recognize the ambitions and demands of the Syrian people.”
The LF leader said that the Syrian regime was largely responsible for weakening Christians in Lebanon and had killed thousands and imprisoned hundreds, including Butros Khawand, a prominent member of the Kataeb party.
“The Syrian regime killed – at least – presidents Bashir Gemayel and Rene Mouawad. Can a regime do worse than that?” he asked, adding that Rai’s stances were “dishonorable” and that he should further explicate his views so as to dispel the assumption that he supports Damascus.
“Is it reasonable for the Patriarch of the Maronites to have the same position as [Arab Tawhid Party leader Wiam] Wahhab, Russia and China? How can he justify this position?” Geagea asked, comparing Rai to Syria’s allies in Lebanon and the world.
Reiterating his full support for the “Syrian revolution” and the “Arab Spring” movement, Geagea expressed his disappointment over Rai’s stances, saying: “My basic position on the Syrian revolution is that I am against a dictatorial regime and with people demanding freedom and I’m sad for the patriarch. What will we say to our future generations about his support for the Syrian regime?”